How does one terminate or relinquish parental rights in New Mexico? This is a challenging question because in New Mexico, often times Courts are reluctant to relinquish or terminate parental rights.
Parental rights are considered fundamental rights. The following is written from the perspective of a mother seeking to terminate an absentee biological father's parental rights. I'm often asked this very question.
There is a presumption that a child needs his or her parents as well as the financial security of two parents and only in rare circumstances will parental rights be totally abolished. However, there is a process where one can petition the Children’s Court to do either of those actions.
Firstly, let’s discuss voluntary relinquishment of parental rights. I consulted with one attorney who felt it was at least theoretically possible to voluntarily relinquish one’s parental rights. Two other attorneys believed voluntary relinquishment was in practical terms out of the question. The first attorney suggested drafting and filing with th eChildren’s Court a pleading called “Consent to Relinquish Parental Rights”. This would have to be done by the child’s biological father.
However, before going down this path too far,we must consider that generally speaking, one voluntarily relinquishes parental rights in cases of neglect and abuse. And in essence, the Department of Children Youth and Families steps in. Here is the relevant law with respect tovoluntary relinquishment of parental rights to CYFD:
32A-5-24. Relinquishments to thedepartment.
A. When a parent elects to relinquish parental rights to the department, apetition to accept the relinquishment shall be filed, unless an abuse orneglect proceeding is pending. If an abuse or neglect proceeding ispending, the relinquishment shall be heard in the context of that proceeding.
B. In all hearings regarding relinquishment of parental rights to thedepartment, the child shall be represented by a guardian ad litem.
C. If a proposed relinquishment of parental rights is not in contemplationof adoption, the court shall not allow the relinquishment of parental rightsunless it finds that good cause exists, that the department has made reasonableefforts to preserve the family and that relinquishment of parental rights is inthe child's best interest. Whenever a parent relinquishes his parentalrights pursuant to this subsection, the parent shall remain financiallyresponsible for the child. The court may order the parent to pay thereasonable costs of support and maintenance of the child. The court mayuse the child support guidelines set forth in Section 40-4-11.1 NMSA 1978 to calculate a reasonablepayment.
D. When a parent relinquishes the parent's rights under this section, theparent shall be notified that no contact will be enforced by the court,regardless of any informal agreement, unless the parties have agreed to an openadoption pursuant to Section32A-5-35 NMSA 1978. The consent forrelinquishment shall be in writing and shall state that the parties understandthat any informal agreement allowing contact will not be enforced by thecourts.
Please note that in paragraph C. the Court must find that good cause exists AND that CYFD has made reasonable efforts to preserve the status quo. end of part 1